The Incredible Exploding Implosion

Dodgers first base coach George Lombard stands between Madison Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig at the end of the 7th inning at Dodger Stadium.

The Giants are 6 games back in the West. If the season ended today, the St. Louis Cardinals would host them to settle for the second Wild Card slot.

San Francisco is 22–38 since the All-Star Break.

Madison Bumgarner has been the savior of the Giants before, putting the team on his back — or his pitching arm — more than once. Often, he’s carried them in the playoffs. To division and league titles. To World Series rings and Market Street parades.

Last night, he dragged them further down into the pit they’ve been struggling to crawl out of since July.

On paper, Bum’s night looks fantastic. Seven innings, one hit, no runs. He struck out 10 Dodger batters, including Keke Hernandez, who usually has his number, and rookie sensation Corey Seager. He was even given a lead — a masterful job of pulling brilliance out of thin air by a hurt but grinding Eduardo Nunez. It looked through 6 2/3 as if that was all Bumgarner would need. A Giants win. Four back in the division. Gaining ground in the Wild Card.

Bumgarner also collected another shiny bauble for his trophy case, recording his 241st strikeout of the season to eclipse Rube Marquard’s mark as the most thrown by a Giant’s left-hander since 1911. It seemed like an old story: the Giants struggling, Bumgarner sauntering on the mound like it’s high noon. You can almost hear the whistle and the tumbleweeds. Sheriff’s here. Outlaws beware.

Instead, after the last out of the 7th inning, Bumgarner and his best friend Yasiel Puig had some choice looks for each other. Then they had words. Then it was up to Brandon Belt to act as a buffer between them, until the benches cleared and Bumgarner could be hauled back to the Giants dugout. Mac Williamson pinch-hit for him in the next half inning.

What followed is an old story, too, if a far less enjoyable one. The Giants’ bullpen faced 4 batters in the bottom of the ninth inning without recording an out. The Dodgers walked off on an Adrian Gonzalez double. Another lead brought into the 9th inning, and squandered away. The Giants are 4–5 when taking leads into the 9th this month. They’ve blown 30 saves on the year.

The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch the division is now just seven. The Giants are desperately trying to hold off a hobbled Cardinals team for the second Wild Card spot. As it stands, they would have to go to St. Louis for a one-game playoff just to earn the right to head to New York to play the Mets in the actual Wild Card game.

It’s been quite a downhill ride for the team that had the best record in baseball at the break. At this point, sneaking in is all the Giants are trying to do.

What to Look For:

Johnny Cueto was stellar in his last start against the Dodgers, but ended up getting Cain’d. The Giants lost that game 1–0. Cueto has since been on a tear, including throwing a complete game his last time out. Going the distance is certainly one way to avoid the bullpen blues the Giants are having.

Speaking of the bullpen, Derek Law was about the only one who looked like a major league pitcher. Expect him to be handed the closing job soon, if for no other reason than that no one else seems to be able to get batters out in the ninth inning.

Up Next:

Game 2 against the Dodgers. Rich Hill will oppose Johnny Cueto in a rematch of Cueto’s last start in LA. Hopefully, the Giants can muss Hill’s line for a run or two. Cueto would only have needed a pair to win their last meeting.

Elsewhere, the Cardinals will play the Rockies in Colorado. Adam Wainwright will face Jorge De La Rosa. Wainwright has a 6.19 road ERA, and they’ll be playing in the thin-aired bandbox that is Coors Field. Unfortunately for the Giants, De La Rosa has allowed 16 runs (10 earned) in his last 14.3 innings. Expect a high-scoring affair in the mile high city tonight.

The Mets, who currently lead the Wild Card race by a game, host the Braves at Citi Field. New York’s starting rotation is in shambles, and Robert Gsellman will start for them against Julio Teheran. Gsellman has been serviceable, going at least 5 innings with 4 or fewer runs in his last four starts. Teheran, however, has had the Mets’ number in the past. A homer on September 9th ended his streak of 29 2/3 scoreless innings against them, but he’ll be looking to begin a new one tonight. If the Braves score 3 or more, they’ll probably win. That would be huge for the Giants.

Injury Report:

Eduardo Nunez admitted after last night’s game to some continued discomfort in his oblique. He was able to play through it, diving and speeding his way to a run against Clayton Kershaw. Hopefully it doesn’t develop into anything more serious than the nuisance it seems to be at the moment. The Giants can ill-afford to lose their speedy third baseman.

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